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Soldiers called it ‘Camp Hell.’ Now former World War II camp is a national monument

Camp Hale in Colorado (unknown author/WikiCommons)

The U.S. Army built Camp Hale in Colorado to train soldiers for mountain combat in World War II, but the troops had another name for the rugged, remote facility: Camp Hell.

The former training camp on Wednesday, Oct. 12, became part of the new Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, The Washington Post reported.

It’s the first national monument designated by President Joe Biden, although he has expanded some existing national monuments reduced in size by former President Donald Trump.

The new 53,800-acre national monument includes the Tenmile Range, a mountain range prized for its stunning views, The Washington Post said.

Biden also has proposed removing 225,000 acres of the nearby Thompson Divide from future mining or drilling. Republicans led by Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., oppose both moves.

The U.S. Army built Camp Hale in 1942 to prepare troops for mountain combat in northern Italy, the Colorado Encyclopedia said. Soldiers learned to “ski, snowshoe, and climb” at the camp.

It was named for Brig. Gen. Irving Hale, a Denver native who fought in the Spanish-American War, but troops dubbed it “Camp Hell” for the tough training, primitive conditions and remote location.

The elite 10th Mountain Division, which fought in Italy late in the war, trained there, Military History Now reported. The last division to enter combat, its soldiers never did fight on skis.

The division was disbanded after the war, but later re-formed as a rapid-deployment light infantry unit stationed at Fort Drum, New York.

Camp Hale also served as a prisoner-of-war camp for German soldiers.

It was later dismantled and then officially closed, although the military continued to hold training in the region, the Colorado Encyclopedia reported.

“With every passing year, there are fewer World War II veterans who trained at Camp Hale left to tell their story, which is why it is so important that we protect this site now,” Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said in a statement, KMGH reported.


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